Yesterday, my 7-year-old tried out for, and made, a competitive swim team around here. It’s the same one the 10-year-old is on. After he was in, and I learned which group he’d be assigned to (and hence the practice times) I had the necessary information for creating our fall activity schedule.
This can be quite a puzzle. I know in recent years it’s become fashionable to complain about children being “over scheduled” — whatever that means — but the reality of a larger family is that the family as a whole can have a lot of activities without any individual child having that much. I also tend to think that supporting a child’s interests is a good thing, and activities can allow for a different sort of challenge than a child might get in school (even though our school is helpful here — the only reason my 10-year-old plays the viola is because the school gave him lessons). We probably, to an average observer’s eyes, have a lot going on, and since the kids are in school until 3:35, there are only so many hours to fit stuff in before bedtime. But I’m pretty happy with the schedule I’ve created. My principles:
Spreadsheets are my friend. Yes, I used the “s” word… My 168 hours log turns out to be perfect for visualizing when kids need to be various places in the afternoon (or morning, for pre-school activities, and Saturday stuff). You can get one using this link.
Think through all the constituent parts. The good news is that things like 5-year-old gymnastics are offered multiple times per week. My kids also each have six karate options per week, and there are 3-4 swim times, of which they need to be there 2-3 times. My 10-year-old is auditioning for a musical, and there are 4 casts, so I will be able to express a preference for which one he’s in. I sat down with all the schedules, which means I now actually know which casts will and won’t work for us.
Remember kid energy levels. It’s really hard to do two activities on any given day. Two (or three) kids can have one activity apiece, but trying to bring a kid to karate after swim is just asking for trouble.
Leave an open day. I am purposefully leaving Wednesday activity-free after school. I think it will be a nice breather during the week. There’s also the plus that if we do miss activities other days for some reason, we have that as a back-up. Of course to do that, we had to put Saturdays in play. However, they will be doable because of the next principle.
Stack on weekends. We are going to have Saturday AM activities, but everyone will be done by 10:45 a.m. That leaves the rest of the weekend open for family activities, or the inevitable birthday parties and the like (and just general relaxing).
Protect my work time. As the parent who works from home, I’ll wind up doing a fair chunk of the kid shuttling (our nanny will do the rest). But looking at how I’ve arranged the schedule, I see that I should be able to work through to 6 p.m. (or later) at least two days during the week, and if need be, I can get to 5:20 p.m. on two others. So that is not bad, especially since I can use some of the later evening to get to more if I need to. If I’m traveling a day that requires a second driver, we can either skip one of the activities that night (and push it to Wednesday that week!) or get a second sitter or carpool.
Be flexible. It’s possible some of this won’t work out as well as it looks on paper. That’s OK. Now that I know the lay of the land, I know we can move things around if we need to.
How is the fall schedule shaping up for you?